Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Forty-One

Surrounded. By enemies. Even in the middle of a war, Roark had never been completely surrounded by enemies before. It wasn’t a feeling he relished. He now understood what it must feel like to be a wild animal caught in a trap: frightened, knowing that trying to escape would only end in injury or even death, but so desperate to be free that any price is worth it.

It was hard not to lose hope. He had seen the number of Keidenelle he would have to fight through to regain his freedom, and it was staggering. And he and Weslyn had now been separated. She was still in the big audience chamber, but she had been crammed into a far corner of it with a great deal of other prisoners. Sonsedhor was still in the hands of the savage he assumed was the leader of the band that had captured him.

Somewhere in the back of his mind– the part of him that noticed every detail of his surroundings and analyzed them for tactical purposes– he couldn’t help but notice how similar the big audience chamber was to Lady Ara Fusica’s chamber in Necras. The sudden, unbidden thought of the girl hit him like a hammer. What had happened to Lady Ara? He had practically raised her– not alone, of course– but he had been set as her personal guard almost from the moment she had been born. It was only natural that he should feel a fatherly connection to her, but… what had happened to her since he’d left? With everything that was happening in the world… had she been taken by the blackness? Attacked by Keidenelle? Was it possible… could she be among the multitudes of prisoners here in Estra?

Once that possibility entered his head, he couldn’t help but scan the room for her. The large bunch of prisoners in the room were perhaps a twentieth of all the prisoners the Keidenelle had brought. Odds were if Lady Ara was a prisoner, she wouldn’t be in here.

Another movement caught his eye. The Keidenelle man carrying Sonsedhor was approaching the dais in the center of one wall. Atop it was an ornate chair– the ruler of Estria’s chair– and in the chair, a haughty- looking young man sat sideways, one leg thrown carelessly over an arm of the chair. His pitch black, wavy hair was swept aside from eyes that had once surely been handsome but now looked somewhat lifeless. If not for a defiant fiery twinkle in the depths of his eyes, Roark would have thought the young man completely apathetic.

The savage offered the still-sheathed Sonsedhor up to the young man, who practically leapt down form the chair to seize it from him. He rapidly unsheathed the blade, throwing the scabbard aside like trash. He ran a hand up and down the wide blade, caressing it like a lover. Roark narrowed his eyes. He swore he could almost feel those caresses on his soul, sending shudders up and down the core of his soul. From the handful of paces away from the dais, where the Keidenelle were holding him, he could see that Sonsedhor had changed again since he’d seen it last. His bloody handprint was still on the hilt, but the blade– the once brilliantly silvery-white blade– had darkened to the sickening rusty, blackish red-brown of old, dried blood.

The young man kept his grip on the hilt and one hand on the flat of the blade, smiling at it. Roark could see the greed in his eyes, almost feel the desire for power it radiating from him in waves. For a long while, the Keidenelle stood silent, watching him.

“Kill them all,” the young man said suddenly.

The prisoners began to scream and the whole mass of them trembled. The Keidenelle exchanged looks, but it was Roark’s lead man who spoke. “Dark Father orders not to kill man,” he said, gesturing to Roark. “Dark Father’s order first.”

The Dark Father?! They followed the Dark Father? Mother save us all, he thought. They actually received orders from the enemy of all that was good? Roark began struggling against the savages holding him. He had to get out, had to get Weslyn out, to get Sonsedhor out of the hands of the Keidenelle and this sulky youth.

“I said to kill them all!” the young man shouted, his face turning red. The tiny spark of fire in his eyes had turned to a full blaze. He brandished Sonsedhor grandly, holding the blade over his head. Light from outside glinted off the darkened steel, making it gleam sinisterly. “I hold Sonsedhor! I am the ancient hero Cheyne Firdin’s rebirth! I am the legend, the perfect tool and chosen agent of the Dark Father himself! I will be obeyed!” Lowering the sword, he charged through the mass of Keidenelle toward the huddled prisoners. At random, he began pointing them out and ordering torturous deaths for them: boiling in oil, slow skinning and dismemberment, disemboweling, burning alive, and every other horrible fate he could probably imagine.

Eventually, his finger found Weslyn, and he began to detail how she would be enclosed in a metal chamber and have a fire set underneath it so she would roast to death. Weslyn’s eyes grew wide with terror. Roark narrowed his and vowed to himself that he would sooner die than allow someone as sweet as Weslyn come to that sort of a death. Somehow, he would find a way to save her and as many others as he could from the sick, twisted whims of this youth who fancied himself Cheyne reborn.

But how could he do it? Even if he somehow managed to free himself and all the prisoners– a nearly impossible feat in itself– the Keidenelle still outnumbered them at least three to one. Then there was the question of interference from the Dark Father. Was he really able to give orders directly to the Keidenelle and to this youth? If so, could he take action to stop any plans Roark tried to act on?

There was too much doubt. It would be difficult enough getting himself out. Weslyn and Sonsedhor were his priorities. Two people would be easier to get out than four hundred.

The young man was still going on with his torture assignments, but he had moved past Weslyn. The merchant girl caught Roark’s gaze. Her dark rich blue eyes were full of terror.

Swallowing, he made himself a different vow. If there’s no other way… if I must, to save her from a worse fate… I’ll kill her myself to save her.

The young man seemed to have tired of his sport in scaring the prisoners. Or maybe he had simply run out of ideas. Either way, he turned now to face Roark. “You’re the one he wants… you’re the one who found Sonsedhor first.” He sneered. “I can’t believe those filthy hands touched my sword…” He turned to the nearest Keidenelle. “If Akotherian wants him alive, take him to him. Get this usurper out of my sight.”
As a pair of Keidenelle dragged Roark from the chamber, the last things he saw were Weslyn’s terrified eyes and the youth fastening the re-sheathed Sonsedhor to his own belt.

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